How I Learned My Tolerance for Spicy Food Has Limits After Going to Indonesia

  I have always been confident about eating chili peppers. Although I am from the north, my stomach for eating chili peppers has been trained by my roommates from Hubei and Sichuan in the dormitory during my four years of college life. After graduation, every time I went on a business trip to southwestern provinces, the locals always said to me: “Young man, how come you can eat spicy food better than us!”
  But what I didn’t expect was that my confidence was destroyed in Indonesia. .
  When I first arrived in Indonesia, I didn’t dare to try it because I wasn’t familiar with the local food, but soon I was attracted by the various street snacks. I tried ordering fried skewers and the stall owner came with a packet of chili sauce. I ordered roadside fried rice, and no matter which flavor it was, the chef added a lot of chili. Even when buying fruit salad, the boss will sprinkle hot pepper on it, which makes me think that if the hot pepper is not put on the food, Indonesians may regard it as a semi-finished dish that has not yet been completed.
  Indonesian peppers also have different flavors, some are sour and spicy, and some are sweet. As for the spiciness, it’s like opening a blind box, it all depends on luck, and my luck is obviously not good.
  Once, I randomly found a popular small restaurant on the roadside in Jakarta for dinner. The dishes in the restaurant were cooked in advance and placed in small bowls, and diners could choose according to their preferences. I chose a half-vegetarian dish and a bowl of rice. Upon seeing this, the restaurant owner immediately reminded me: “This dish is a bit spicy. You’d better choose the all-vegetarian dish next to it.” The price of the all-vegetarian dish was the price in my hand. It was twice the portion. I subconsciously felt that the boss was trying to trick me, so I replied, “I can eat spicy food, no problem!” Seeing my determination, the boss said nothing more.
  After the first bite, it was slightly spicy. After the second and third bites, the spiciness started to rise. After a few more bites, the spiciness hit my forehead and I had to start eating rice. When I was about to give up on this bowl of food, I saw the boss staring at me from the corner of my eye, as if he was provoking, “Can’t you eat spicy food?” So I lowered my head, bit the bullet, added two bowls of rice, and added it to the dish. Eat them all.
  When I checked out, I was sweating profusely and had tears in my eyes. It turns out that people can really be made to cry. The boss looked at me proudly and asked: “How does it taste?” I was so spicy that I couldn’t speak. I nodded and turned around and ran to the supermarket nearby and bought a large bucket of iced Coke.
  From then on, when I was in Indonesia, I no longer dared to boast that I could eat chili peppers. Whenever someone reminded me that this dish was very spicy, I would always follow the advice and change the dish immediately without being arrogant.
  Even so, it is still inevitable to step on thunder. Sometimes, I asked specifically about the spiciness. After getting the promise that it was “not very spicy,” I was still so spicy that I burst into tears. But I have long since learned to let go of unnecessary self-esteem, immediately put down the dishes, pay the bill and leave. At the end of the day, I have to observe whether there are diners in the restaurant who have brought children to eat, see what they ordered on the table, and then take all the orders. This ensures that basically no accidental injuries will be caused.
  Why do Indonesians eat spicy food so much? First of all because of the weather here. Indonesia is located in the tropics and has high temperatures all year round. In an era without freezing and preservation technology, food could easily deteriorate. The chili has a domineering taste, and just adding a few spoons is enough to cover up the bad taste. Secondly, the hot climate makes many people lack appetite, but any ingredient can be easily eaten with chili. As a vegetable, peppers have a high survival rate and are easy to grow.
  What’s more, chili peppers themselves are addictive. Some analysts say that when people eat spicy food, their bodies will detect pain and immediately relieve it by increasing their heart rate and releasing endorphins. Endorphins make you feel happy. It is probably the combination of these reasons that makes chili pepper reach the status of being loved by everyone in Indonesia.
  Chili pepper was introduced to Indonesia from the Americas around the 16th century, and soon it became an indispensable condiment on the local people’s tables. In many Indonesian restaurants, no matter what dish you eat, the waiter will ask you to choose hot sauce first when ordering. There are usually soy sauce hot sauce, tomato hot sauce, Sumatra green hot sauce and shrimp oil hot sauce… Some restaurants choose more than 20 kinds. , for foreign tourists, it is like reading a book from heaven.
  According to local people, spicy food is divided into 10 levels in local restaurants. The level that normal people can tolerate is below level 5, which is also the upper limit of spicy food in ordinary Indonesian restaurants. In order to attract diners, some restaurants hold chili contests from time to time to see who can eat the spiciest food.
  Indonesia’s more than 200 million people like spicy food so much that the country needs to spend a lot of foreign exchange to import chili peppers every year. As Ramadan approaches, the price of Indonesian red peppers begins to rise, sometimes even doubling. Because of the profits, some wholesalers even secretly manipulate the price of chili peppers. These people are called the “chili mafia” by the government and have become a key target of the police.
  Although in addition to spicy, Indonesians also like fried and sweet flavors, the other flavors did not strike me as “spicy”. Even after I returned to China, I still had the “Indonesian chili sequelae”, that is, I no longer dare to brag about being able to eat spicy food. After all, compared with Indonesians, I can only be considered a small person.

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